IWC: Pilot’s Watch Chronograph TOP GUN Edition Lake Tahoe & Woodland￼30 March 2022
The great German writer and Nobel Prize winner Thomas Mann wrote, “an evolution is a destiny.” A sentence that fits perfectly with IWC’s Pilot’s watches which, since they were created, have remained true to themselves and to their vocation, while evolving in technical solutions and, above all, materials.
IWC AND THE CHALLENGE OF CERAMICS
Among these materials, ceramic has played a leading role ever since IWC introduced it in the Da Vinci collection in the mid-1980s. If the Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Chronograph aroused great interest for its black zirconium oxide ceramic case, over the years the brand concentrated the use of this material in the references of the Pilot’s Watch collection, mainly on the TOP GUN editions.
That zirconium oxide ceramic case was black on the first 2007 references, but has since evolved into increasingly seductive colors, among which the blue shade of the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Royal Maces” – dedicated to one of the American naval aviation elite squadrons – and the sandy color of the Big Pilot’s Watch TOP GUN Edition “Mojave Desert”.
These are now joined by two new references, in white and dark green: the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph TOP GUN Edition “Lake Tahoe” and the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph TOP GUN Edition “Woodland”. But before we talk about them, let’s take a step back.
A COMPLEX AND DELICATE PROCESS
As early as 1980, IWC produced a few limited series of prototypes in white, blue, green and pink ceramic. Not a small job, because making colored ceramic cases is a complex operation. To create the final color shade, it is necessary to carry out countless tests to find the optimal pigment mixtures. Then, the color must match perfectly with other components of the watch, such as the dial or the bracelet. All this over a complex and high-tech production process.
It starts with raw materials, mostly mineral polycrystalline powders, which are mixed with several additives into a homogeneous substance which will be shaped and then treated at high temperatures in a furnace process called sintering. During this process, the volume of the ceramic shrinks by about one third. To make sure that, subsequently, the movement accurately fits into the case, this shrinkage must be factored in as early as during the design phase.
To give the ceramic its color, zirconium oxide is combined with other metallic oxides. The raw materials and the mixing ratio are different for each shade. In addition, the manufacturing process and the specific conditions it requires have to be adapted to the colored ceramic and its components: for example, the temperature and duration of the sintering process. All this taking into consideration that colored ceramics have higher requisites regarding the raw materials’ purity.
The choice made by IWC to use ceramic for the cases of the Pilot’s Watches from the TOP GUN collection is neither casual nor aesthetic, but functional. It is a material highly resistant to corrosion and scratches – essential requirements for a chronograph designed for everyday use in the confined space of a jet cockpit and long deployments on aircraft carriers. So here are the two new chronographs presented at Watches & Wonders 2022.
PILOT’S WATCH CHRONOGRAPH TOP GUN EDITION “LAKE TAHOE”
The Pilot’s Watch Chronograph TOP GUN Edition “Lake Tahoe” (white) and the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph TOP GUN Edition “Woodland” (green) were inspired by the US Navy uniforms color codes and the landscapes used as training grounds by naval aviators. As IWC CEO Christoph Grainger-Herr pointed out, “The white and green ceramics used for the cases also illustrate the current evolution of TOP GUN from a collection primarily focused on performance to a bold style statement and an expression of a distinct way of life.”
This is well demonstrated by the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph TOP GUN Edition “Lake Tahoe”, which takes its name from the lake not far from Naval Air Station Fallon located in the town of the same name in the state of Nevada. It is the home of the US Navy’s TOP GUN school, located in a mountainous area and frequently used as a training ground by the Navy Fighter Weapons School pilots. The winter landscape around the lake, as well as the white US Navy uniforms, inspired the watch’s color.
Including the 44.5 mm white ceramic case, the features of the watch are classics for the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph TOP GUN: counters at 6, 9 and 12 o’clock, date with day of the month and week at 3 o’clock, central chronograph hand, deep black dial, index and numeral hands coated with luminescent material. In addition to the ceramic, there are also the steel of the screwed crown and chronograph pushers, and the titanium of the case back, engraved with the TOP GUN logo.
Do you remember what we wrote above about the difficulty of matching the ceramic color with that of the other parts of the watch? In the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph TOP GUN Edition “Lake Tahoe”, IWC found the perfect match, especially with the matching white rubber strap. The particular embossing further accentuates the iconic design of the watch.
PILOT’S WATCH CHRONOGRAPH TOP GUN EDITION “WOODLAND”
We also find the same perfect match in the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph TOP GUN Edition “Woodland”. The green of the case, rubber and fabric strap in the TOP GUN line goes back to the Miramar models with anthracite dials and olive-green straps. The colors of the current watch are inspired by the flight suits of the US Navy aviators.
Unlike the other chronograph, here the distinctive color of the case and strap is also found on the dial, on which the numerals and hour markers stand out in a lighter green. The chronograph pushers and caseback are in matte black Ceratanium, a material developed by IWC and already used for the cases of some of the Pilot’s Watches. Ceratanium combines the lightness and structural integrity of titanium with a hardness and scratch resistance similar to ceramic. Here too, the case is 44.5 mm in diameter and 15.7 mm thick.
Both watches are powered by the 69380 in-house movement, a robust and reliable automatic chronograph caliber with a column wheel design. The classic soft-iron inner case protects the movement from magnetic fields which affect the running and accuracy of the watch. The caliber beats at 28,800 vibrations/hour and has 46-hour power reserve.
These watches are designed to be used in the seagoing supersonic fighters’ cockpits, so the case is water resistant to 6 bar. The domed sapphire crystal, in addition to its anti-reflective coating on both sides, is designed to withstand sudden drops in air pressure. Both watches are produced in 1000 pieces per year, and priced at € 10.100 for the Lake Tahoe version and 11.100 for the Woodland model.
Finally, what can we say about these two timepieces? What we wrote at the beginning: “an evolution is a destiny.” Through its evolution, IWC’s Pilot’s Watch Chronograph TOP GUN lives up to a tradition based on love for flight and performance, building the destiny of the collection and of the brand. A destiny made of excellence and uninterrupted challenge for a brand that, in over 150 years of history, understood tastes trends – often even anticipating them.
By Davide Passoni